I didn’t realize how much I missed the Armenian language until we came to Gyumri and started camp, also known as Jampar. Going from having Armenian classes every day for 8 years, to a private American high school where there were only about 5 Armenians, to Santa Clara University, where I have yet to meet a fellow Armenian, I was starting to lose touch with my roots and culture. Yes, my family and I speak Armenian at home, but it’s more of a mix, where we tend to speak more English. I was starting to miss speaking Armenian and I didn’t know how I could fix that, especially since I’m up at school for 9 out of the 12 months of the year and have no one to talk to.
When we first came to Gyumri, I knew I was going to be with kids that didn’t speak a word of English for more than 5 hours a day, 5 days a week. It was then when I realized I now have a chance to make up for all those times in school where I was unable to speak Armenian and a chance to get back in touch with my culture. I was worried at first; worried that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with the kids because it had been so long since I actually spoke Armenian, especially to people directly from Armenia, where dialect and even some words are different.
Now, however, a week into Jampar and about to start our second week, I have had no complications whatsoever in communicating with the kids. Actually, the kids have been helping me improve my Armenian. This may be extreme, but I would say that these kids pretty much saved me from forgetting my language and losing my culture. I didn’t realize how much I needed this until coming to Jampar, and I would say that this is probably the main reason why I decided to do Youth Corps — to get back in touch with my culture and not lose the Armenian in me.